Detectives investigating the case of a 10-year-old Illinois boy who was found dead in a trash can at his home this summer now say Zion Staples may have fatally shot himself, according to court testimony.
Zion’s mother, Sushi Staples, 38, stands accused of concealing the death of her child, who was found dead in a garbage can in the garage of the family’s Rock Island home on July 26.
Last month Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson said Zion died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head and when police discovered his body during a welfare check, he had been dead for about eight months.
On Friday, Gustafson told USA TODAY final autopsy results were still pending in the case.
“Do I know who shot him? No,” the coroner said. “I don’t believe we will ever know at this point who shot him, but the case is still an active and open investigation.”
During a Aug. 31 preliminary court hearing recorded by WHBF- TV, Rock Island Police Department Detective Jonathan Shappard explained how officers learned the mother was hiding the boy’s body in a plastic bin in the basement after he died around December 21.
Shappard testified two of Staple’s other children living in the home told police Zion “was playing with a handgun and accidentally shot himself.”
The detective also testified when he spoke with the boy’s mother, she denied having a son but later admitted to police she had moved the body to the home’s garage because “she didn’t want her other four children to locate him in the basement.”
Shappard testified the boy’s mother attempted to conceal the odor coming from the boy’s decomposed body.
“In every vent of the house there was dryer sheets,” the detective testified.
According to local KWQC-TV, police said the mother hid her son’s body in a plastic bin inside the home to collect benefits.
During the preliminary hearing − also recorded by that outlet – Shappard said the boy’s mother carried her son’s body to a metal trash can in their garage where police later found his body. It was not immediately known when she moved his corpse from the basement to the garage.
The boy’s body, Shappard testified, was found inside the garage trash can wearing only Spiderman pants.
The detective also said he found dryer sheets stuffed in vents inside the garage.
After hearing testimony, the judge found probable cause in the case, court documents show, and Staples waived her arraignment hearing and requested a jury trial,
Staples, charged with concealment of a body, obstruction of justice and failure to report the death of a child, remained incarcerated Friday at the Rock Island County Jail.
She was being held on $500,000 bail, records show, and is slated to appear in court on Nov. 27 for a pretrial hearing on the case.